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Licence audits are our way of maintaining the integrity of the Register of Radio Frequencies (the Register). Having accurate information in the Register allows us to create well engineered licences.
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Why we audit
Auditing radio licences and transmitter sites helps us:
- promote voluntary compliance
- minimise the likelihood of interference across the radio spectrum
- make sure that transmission is authorised by a licence
- ensure that licence conditions are met
- promote sound management and engineering of radio licences and transmission sites
- strengthen our relationships with the radio industry
- maintain the value and usability of the radio frequency spectrum in New Zealand.
Who gets audited
Anyone who transmits radio waves can be audited, including:
- existing radio or spectrum licence holders
- radio or spectrum licence holders of recently cancelled licences
- anyone operating under a general user licence (radio or spectrum).
We target licences and services where non-compliance is most likely to:
- affect the accuracy of the Register
- be a risk to future licence planning
- increase the risk of interference to existing services.
You could be selected for an audit if:
- you’re the subject of a complaint
- monitoring or other information indicates an unlicensed operation
- an interference investigation indicates unlicensed or faulty equipment is being operated
- you have a previous record of non-compliance with licence conditions
- a history of interference exists.
We select licences to be audited with an emphasis on high risk services and ‘at risk’ sites. But, some audits are random. This helps us understand the level of compliance across all services.
High risk licences
‘High risk’ licences are more likely to cause interference to other radio services. Factors that could result in a licence — or a class of licence — being considered high risk include:
- high power
- coverage area
- previous noncompliance
- previous interference issues.
We audit a greater number of high risk transmitters.
At risk sites
Radio sites with a large number of communication services are at greater risk of interference. We audit more transmitters at sites where interference has been an issue.
The audit process
We aim to minimise disturbance to the radio spectrum when we do audits. Most licence audits are conducted over the air.
Audits that need site access — like power measurements — will be planned with you in advance. We’ll give you notice to make sure you can arrange access in plenty of time.
In some cases, a Radio Spectrum Investigator may arrange to audit you immediately if:
- a serious risk to radio communications has been identified, or
- interference is occurring.
During an audit, the Investigator may:
- measure transmitter power, frequency, bandwidth and emission characteristics
- check locations and altitudes with a GPS to confirm grid references
- note the following:
- all transmitters, receivers and associated equipment
- antenna type, polarity (plane in which the radio signal is sent — typically vertical or horizontal), azimuth (compass direction the radio signal is transmitted in) and height above ground
- note coaxial cable (transmission line designed to carry radio signals) type and length
- take photos of the transmitting equipment or site.
If a coupled measurement is needed, the Radio Spectrum Investigator may ask you to take your equipment off air during the audit. This will only happen if you, or your agent, consents to it.
To prepare for your audit, check to see if:
- you have a current licence
- the transmitter is located at the licensed location
- site access is available
- there are any safety issues to be considered
- any other affected parties — like site owners and co-users — have been notified
- you’re complying with all licence conditions, including:
- emission type
- antenna polarisation, and
- radiation pattern.
ALERT: The Radio Spectrum Investigator may ask you to stop transmitting immediately if harmful interference occurs at the time of investigation.
What happens next
Our compliance team will let you know the outcome of your audit when your assessment is complete. If we find evidence of non-compliance, we’ll let you know what the issue is and what you can do to fix it.
Anyone found to be non-compliant could:
- be given a Warning Notice
- get an Infringement Offence Notice, and a fine of between $250 and $1700
- be prosecuted, and fined between $30,000 and $200,000.
In most cases, you’ll get either a Warning Notice or an Infringement Notice. We decide which by looking at what the issue means for the radiocommunications environment. This includes:
- the effect on safety services
- the impact on the licensing system
- the impact on radiocommunication users
- the impact on any businesses involved
- whether the non-compliance results from a fault or from manufacturer, supplier, installer or user action
- whether there’s a previous history of non-compliance or continued offending
- the level of cooperation during our investigation
- the effort made to resolve any issues.
We also look at previous cases to make sure we’re consistent in our findings.
When we set a date for fixing a non-compliance issue, we consider:
- the impact of the issue on radio users and the radio industry, and
- the resourcing needed to take the required action.
If you don’t think you can fix the issue by the date you’re given, contact us to see if you can change it.
If you get a warning notice, it will tell you:
- what your compliance issue is
- what you need to do to fix it
- the date you need to fix it by.
The warning notice will include a Declaration of Compliance form. You need to fill it in and return it to us when you fix your compliance issue. You need to do this by the date set out in the warning notice, unless you agree on a new date with us.
We may also do a follow-up audit to confirm that you’ve taken steps to fix your compliance issue or issues. If you don’t, you could get an infringement notice or face prosecution.
An infringement notices will often follow an unresolved warning notice. But, we don't have to give you a warning notice first, if:
- the effect of the non-compliant situation is considered serious enough, or
- you have a previous history of non-compliance.
An infringement notice will tell you:
- what your infringement offence is
- what steps you need to take to fix it
- the amount you’re being fined
- how to pay your fine
- your rights and obligations.
Your notice will tell you when you need to fix your compliance issue and pay your fine by. If you don’t meet this date, you could get another infringement notice, or you could be prosecuted.
We can choose to prosecute you for non-compliance if:
- it’s considered necessary as a deterrent to further non-compliance
- you don’t respond to an infringement notice.
If you’re convicted, you could get a fine of:
- up to $30,000 as an individual, or
- up to $200,000 if you’re licensed as a company or other body corporate.
You could also be fined up to $1000 a day for every day you continue to be non-compliant. And, in some cases, your equipment could be confiscated.